I’ve arrived in Stockholm and had a few hours of leisure time before my fully packed agenda started. When from going moose (souvenir) hunting (since my Lieblingsmensch, like most Germans, for some reason is crazy about Mooses) I screened the shelves of the big galleries, like NK and Åhléns, where I found the most beautiful Christmas decorations (I could have bought them all!), but no mooses.

Swedish design is definitely different from any other countries. It very often minimalistic and clean, with simple lines, which is very beautiful and stylish and I do have quite a few pieces at home, however mixed with some lace and other softer lines, elements and colours (Belgian/continental style), in order for it to not be too cold and impersonal.

In any case. I learnt a lot about Christmas trees during my little expedition.

Did you know that Denmark has the best circumstances for planting Christmas trees? The windy conditions, together with a sandy soil and mild temperatures are apparently ideal and they export 10 million trees per year, mainly to Germany, Norway and The Netherlands (and cut another two for domestic use).

It takes 12 years from seed to harvest, which in comparison to the wood industry, where they can profit from the sales of trees only 75-100 years later, isn’t too long, but still. Imagine having to wait for 12 years before you can make your first profit. The Christmas trees are cut under an intensive three week period where they work in shifts.

When thinking about it, isn’t it quite a waste to cut so many trees, that are used indoors for a few weeks and then thrown out?

And how did the tradition of Christmas trees start then? Well, in the 16th century the Scandinavians were inspired by the Germans, who brought fir trees in and decorated them with apples, candy and paper roses. Now Christmas trees and everything that comes with the decoration of them, are of course a totally different story and big industry.

What about our Christmas tree? It’s currently being imported from Germany. A traditional German 180 centimetre, hopefully high quality Christmas tree. In plastic! More sustainable and also practical, since we’re both travelling a lot. And in a true European spirit, it will be decorated with baubles, glitter and lights bought a little bit everywhere. Berlin, Stockholm, Brussels and so on.

Tomorrow it’s time to head to Västerås for the Liberal Party Congress. In one year it’s elections in Sweden!

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For my birthday I got a voucher at MikeandBecky , a charming chocolate café and bean-to-bar shop, run by the very friendly, enthusiastic and very passionate owners Björn and Julia. They produce the chocolate themselves without any palm oil, soy lecithin, vanilla or other “fillers” to hide bad cocoa quality, and believe me, the various kinds of chocolates that they sell are truly delicious.

But as much as I do enjoyed drinking a cup of hot chocolate and later on, enjoying eating the delicious chocolate bars that I brought home, the best part was their hospitality and costumer service. I loved how Björn took the time to walk me through the histories of each piece.

For example, one type of bar (Åkessons) is produced by a Swedish diplomat family who moved to Madagascar. Another one is shipped to Europe through a sailing boat and then biked from the harbour to the shop to not leave any ecological print. More importantly, no child labour is involved in any of the plantations.

It took me over a month to actually visit the shop, because it’s situated in Uccle, a neighbourhood quite far from mine. But I’ll be back soon again. And if you’re ever in Brussels and fel like having a cup of real hot chocolate, or bringing a few chocolate bars home, this shop/café is definitely worth a visit!

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I’m in Strasbourg again. It’s incredible how often we need to travel here for the plenary sessions, while the plenary in Brussels remains empty. Time to change this article in the Lisbon treaty?

In any case, my week is fully booked as always, with interviews, press releases, opinion articles and much more to draft and prepare. Not to talk about all the meetings.

My way to manage to get some peace in mind, despite all the stress and pressure is through a few simple steps:


  • I stick to a routine. For example, when I arrive in Strasbourg, I always walk to the parliament, and after having logged in I go for lunch. And each Wednesday in Strasbourg I wake up at 6.45 and go for a run with a friend. That makes me go to bed at 11 pm the day before. Those little things doesn't give me a shortcut to happiness, but it does give me some structure and feeling of being in charge and on the right track, although the rest of the day might be a mess with many things to handle on volley.
  • I have a "debriefing" circle of friends. It's friends that might be close in distance, but only a phone call away. And the best thing with them is that they understand. They get my situation, because they are or have been in a similar one themselves. To have this strong support network, to with them and share the issues that come across my everyday situation at work is totally vital for me. Afterwards it always feels much better.
  • It is always very clear for me what I am fighting for, and why I am acting in a certain way or taking certain decisions. It can be everything from taking that tiring German class to going to the gym or investing another hour at work. It will boost my mood and empower me
  • Accepting that there are bad days sometimes. Leaving them behind and looking bright on what's to come is fundamental for my wellbeing. Unlike what instagram or facebook might say, noone lives a life on roses..
  • Making sure I'm nicely dressed. Wearing a nice dress and shoes boosts my mood, it makes me smile and helps keeping my posture proudly, which automatically brings quite some confidence and piece in mind. Because as shallow as it might sound, no matter how the day might turn out, at least I don't have to worry about my appearance..
  • Finally, what I think is probably the most vital part for my overall well-being, particularly in super stressful environments like a plenary session in Strasbourg is the basics: eat healthy throughout the day (I bring my own home made muesli for breakfast and almost never take desserts for lunch), go to bed before 11 pm, get fresh air by walking to and from work, and sometimes even go for a quick walk during the lunch break, and by being curious and seeing possibilities instead of obstacles.

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While I was in Cuba last year over Christmas and New Years, I will be in Sweden and Germany this time. Meaning that I need to get a dozen of Christmas gifts for all my family members. And actually I’ve already bought and even wrapped most of them, apart from the one to my Lieblingsmensch. Simply because I’m clueless on what to get him. So does he seem to be as well, which doesn’t make the situation better. So any ideas are welcome!

In the meantime I want to share my perfect Christmas gift for him from last year. Since we spent the holidays apart, with me in badly developed Cuba, where I was’t sure about how often I would have access to internet (in the end it turned out to be as badly connected as I had feared) and I still wanted him to hear from me each day, I wrote a letter per day in advance that he could read while I was away, that I delivered to him nicely wrapped in a box before I left. Each letter had a theme, and it was everything from telling about my family to different chapters of my life or simply why I had fallen in love with him. Some letters were several pages, some barely a page. It was a huge success and I can definitely recommend anyone who is staying apart for a longer time to do the same.

If you do it, my advice is to first type a draft on the computer. It makes it much easier to work with the formulations. After that, make sure you have enough time to write the letters by hand. I have to admit that it is a bit tiring and also very time consuming, but definitely worth it. Also, invest in some nice letter paper, like in my case a pharaonic papyrus (imitation) or a thick classical one, for the right classical feeling.

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It's early morning, and on my way to work I pondered about the tricks to get more out of instagram, but personally and professionally. With more than 700 million active users around the world, there is a lot to explore and definitely has potential of helping branding yourself if you wish.

I already shared how to make your holiday pictures stand out and come alive. Here are my top advice if you want to get more followers on instagram!

Reflect on your strategy and main goal that you want to achieve - this is of course individual, but can be anything from branding your personal trademark to share the beautiful cup cakes, bouquets, dresses you have created, or anything else.
Decide on a theme - don't post everything and anything, but pictures that match the aestethics and vibe you want to spead with your feed.
Use one or two filter for every photo It makes your feed more sophisticated, since the pictures will all fit in well together.
Use natural light as much as possible - In principle, only use your flash if taking pictures at night (or if having a big DSLR camera where the flash is adapting to the setting.
Keep it clean - be aware of the background in the picture, and try to keep it as clean as possible.
The best time to take pictures? In the morning or afternoon, when the light is bright and soft.
Pick suitable hashtags for your pictures, preferably those that are most popular.
Don't only like other people's posts, comment as well when relevant - flattering people will make them more inclined to follow you.
Fill in your bio - tell a little bit about you and summarize what your account is all about in a few words. Potential followers will definitely read this when deciding if they want to follow you or not.
Post in the morning and evening - the peaks are when people commute to and from work, and right before going to bed.
Geotag your pictures and add a brief comment on the context - it is more authentic and also gives the relevant information to inspired followers.

Last but not least - instagram is all about the pictures, so make sure they are of high quality and really beautiful and interestingly taken.

Good luck!

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There are many things that I don't like with late autumn. The coldness, darkness and boldness in nature. But it's also the time of the year (when I drink liters of fresh mint tea) when my passion for reading returns, and I have already started digging into my the pile of to-read books that I have gathered the last months. Because during spring and summer I want to be out and enjoy the season as much as possible. There is not much time for reading then!

I remember when I was little, how I spent my weekends in the library borrowing as many books as I could fit into my backpack and drag home. And then during the school breaks I would cuddle up under the window in my room, plowing through books until way past midnight (with my parents happily unaware of me being awake).

Apart from travels, schools and tv programmes, in my pre-google life, books were my first opportunity to learn about the world, about history. I was too young to fully understand some books, like Alex Haley's Roots or A Russian Diary by Anna Politkovskaya, but I still finished them, and one day I will return to them with a better insight than before.

Actually, when I was a child, I aspired to be a writer. I wrote lots of stories just out of a few inspiring pictures. But as I grew older I lost my imagination, I wanted everything to be based on the truth and reality, so my writing developed into a different kind of story telling, the one depicting reality and wanting to give a voice to those who has none.

But still I really admire those who can start with a blank page and fill it with so much imagination that it grabs you. And all of a sudden it's a fully fledged book. Maybe I will write one, one day myself. Maybe it will be a totally fictional one, or one based on experiences. I have an idea of writing about my grandparent's lives. But until I finally grasp the inspiration and "feeling" needed for it, I will continue to keep my night stand overflowing by other people's book, still waiting to be discovered.

My favourites so far this year:

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
Duktiga flickors revansch by Birgitta Ohlsson

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Jippie yey! Easter will be spent in New York! I can't wait to be back in the city that never sleeps and the best thing is that I'll rediscover the city with my Lieblingsmensch. It might mean that he will have to bear with me for a few hours while I'm dreaming myself away at the fourth floor of Macy's Herald Square, where they dedicate hundreds of square meters on dresses (got two last time I was there), but I am sure he will enjoy it. (Soho is another great area for shopping)

We booked ourselves a cute studio through Airbnb in West Village, the most charming and authentic quarters of New York in my opinion, next to cute cafés and picturesque boutiques, within walking distance to all parts of Manhattan. Last time I visited the city I stayed in East Village, which is much shabbier and rougher, and ever since I visited it's Western counterpart I have dreamt about staying here, so I am really happy about it!

New York is indeed a super expensive city. But what we definitely will use is the New York pass , which gives free entrances to all the main attractions, including the Empire State Building, Madame Tussaud, (the New York version is the best I have visited so far) and Metropolitan museum as well as free bike rental at Central Park, guided tours at Wall street etc. In short, it saves lots of time (fast lines) and money (90 activities in one price).

Lession learnt from last time: bring a thermos. While I spent too much money buying myself hot tea to keep me warm between the sights, this time I will bring my own. I rather spend the money on something else than on Starbucks And like everywhere I go, I will bring my own mûesli.

My favourite restaurant that we certainly will visit is Robert , the restaurant at the top of the museum of arts and design (which isn't so much to see to be honest). But the restaurant is a classic modern American restaurant offering breathtaking views of Central Park, what no one should miss!

It will be nine wonderful days!

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Love is not about how many days, months or years we have been together. Love is more about our love for each other each day. And I have realized that what makes us such a strong couple is that I for the first time with someone have the feeling that we share a true dream together, a shared vision for our future and shared values and goals.

Yesterday we celebrated our first anniversary together, and spent the day where our relationship started for real. In Bruges/Brugge (a beautiful fairy-tale town in West Flanders that everyone should visit).

It was a sunny but cold late autumn day, and Bruges had lots of magical Christmas boutiques that we visited, my favourite being Käthe Wohlfahrt, from where we brought home these little lovebirds. I also got those cute chocolate sculptures for my nephews on Christimas from my favourite chocolate shop there, Pralinique. And by the way, if you every visit Bruges, the most romantic place of them all is by the Bonifactus Bridge.

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​It has been a warm weekend with lots of sunshine. While I spent yesterday visiting friends in Antwerp, today was spent biking. We went for a nearly five hour long bike tour, through the woods of Forê​t de Soignes to Chateau de la Hulpe (my legs are like cooked spaghetti now ;-)). Chateau de la Hulpe is my favourite princess castle so far in Belgium. The castle situated on the top of a hill, overlooking a stretched area of green lawn surrounded by trees that this season of the year shifts in all different colours. 

We were lucky, because normally the castle is closed unless you rent it, but today there was an open day event and they even sold some lunch, so we had a nice meal in the sun. And while sitting there eating I spotted the most beautiful tree ever. The one you can see above/under this text. It was huge and had the most amazing composition of colours and shape. When we went for a stroll afterwards I stood for a while underneath it inhaling its positive energy. A totally romantic day, exactly a year after our first date and I am sure we will come back here soon again! 

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